Do you have a warrant in Texas? In this short video, Fort Worth criminal defense attorney Benson Varghese discusses the different types of warrants and how to find out if you have one.
How can you find out if you have a warrant out for your arrest? A warrant is an order from a magistrate that requires your presence in court. There are three basic types of warrants in Texas. The first is an arrest warrant and it’s the most common type of warrant and the type of warrant you might imagine when you hear the word warrant.
An arrest warrant is obtained by a member of law enforcement by going to a magistrate and filing a sworn affidavit. That affidavit must lay out the reasons why they believe there’s probable cause for your arrest. Probable cause means the specific and articulable facts that suggest that an offense was committed and that you’re the person that committed the offense. If the judge agrees that there’s probable cause for your arrest, the judge will sign the arrest warrant and that warrant will become live and you can be arrested at any point.
Once the warrant goes live, one of two things may happen. That warrant may just sit there, unbeknownst to you, and you never find out about the warrant until you’re stopped on a routine traffic violation. The officer runs your background, sees the warrant, and places you under arrest. Alternatively, particularly in more serious cases, the warrant might get assigned to the fugitive unit of your local police department or local Sheriff’s department. A fugitive officer may then come to your door and arrest you at your home, your place of business, or any other place they might find you. Once you’ve been placed under arrest on an arrest warrant, the officer has to take you in front of a magistrate within 48 hours. Typically, you’ll see a judge much sooner, but there’s a 48-hour window that they must meet.
Arrest warrants are the only warrants that are obtained before a case is filed. In other words, the case is actually formally charged when you’re placed under arrest. That’s the inception of the formal criminal process against you. Arrest warrants are sometimes also called pocket warrants. The reason for that is these warrants are not public information. Generally, only law enforcement can see a pocket warrant or an arrest warrant. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important reason is officers don’t want people to flee or present a danger to them when they go to execute that warrant.
The second type of warrant is a capias warrant. A capias warrant, sometimes referred to as a bench warrant, is an order issued by a judge for a person to be brought to court after the case has already been filed. There are a number of reasons a capias warrant or a bench warrant might be filed. First of all, if a person misses their court date, their bond is going to be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for the person’s arrest. This bench warrant or capias warrant requires the person to return to court to address the bond that has been forfeited. Another common example of a capias warrant is a person who’s had a probation violation. Whether you’re on straight probation or deferred adjudication probation, the state can file a motion or a petition alleging the reasons they believe you’ve violated a condition of probation or deferred adjudication. Once the judge receives that motion, a warrant will be issued for your arrest to come to court and address those violations.
The third type of warrant in Texas is a capias pro fine warrant. A capias pro fine warrant means you have failed to fulfill some sort of financial obligation to the court. That typically means you didn’t pay a fine or you fail to pay some court costs. The purpose of a capias pro fine warrant is not to punish you for falling behind on your financial obligations. Instead, the court wants you brought there so that you can make arrangements to fulfill those financial obligations in the future.
So how do you go about finding out if you have a warrant for your arrest?
Understand that arrest warrants are not public. In fact, even the courts won’t have records of arrest warrants until the warrants have been executed. As a result, if you call your local courthouse or run a search online, you may not find out about the active warrant that exists for your arrest. As criminal defense attorneys, we’re sometimes able to convince local police departments or detectives to give us a heads up when they get a warrant or if a warrant is live. Understand that there’s no legal mechanism to force them to do so. And they’re certainly not required to tell you about a warrant. With that said, many detectives are willing to talk to lawyers and let us know when a client has a warrant.
The next two types of warrants, the capias warrant or bench warrant and the capias pro fine warrant, are both warrants that come up after the case has been filed. As a result, it’s much more easy to ascertain and confirm the existence of a warrant. So, if you have a warrant for missing a court date or for violating some term of your bond conditions, it’s fairly easy for us to call the court and confirm whether or not a warrant exists.
Whether or not you have a warrant for a probation violation is a trickier question. Probation officers have gotten adept at not filing a motion to revoke until you are actually at the probation office. So sometimes clients or potential clients will ask whether or not there’s a warrant for a probation violation. And the reality is if you’re dealing with a savvy probation officer, we are not going to be able to see that warrant through the court system or through any public database. They will still, however, sometimes tell us that they are about to or have obtained a warrant or are about to file a motion to revoke.
While an initial arrest is addressed through the bond process, understand that once your case has gone into a warrant status after the case was filed, that is you’ve committed a new offense, so you violated a condition of bond, you violated a condition of probation, you’ve missed a court date, you will then be in the mercy of the court as to when your new bond is set. So, it’s not uncommon for a judge to require that you go into custody and stay in custody for a day, two days, three days, even a week before the judge sets a new bond.
When you’re dealing with a capias warrant and asking the judge to set a new bond, the judge is going to consider the reason the bond was held insufficient or a warrant was issued for your arrest. The judge is also going to consider what the original bond was. It’s not uncommon for judges to double the last bond. If you’re dealing with a probation revocation, judges may hesitate to set a bond. If you’re facing a motion to adjudicate, the judges will generally set a bond for you, although again, the bond is expected to be double what your previous bond was for the underlying case.
If you believe there may be a warrant for your arrest, whether that’s an arrest warrant for a new case or a capias warrant or even a capias pro fine warrant, contact a local attorney who can help navigate the waters for you and find out if there is a warrant for your arrest.
We hope you found this information about warrants in Texas useful. For more information about warrants in Texas, please visit our page on Arrest Warrants and Bench Warrants in Fort Worth.
For more information about warrants in Tarrant County, please visit Tarrant County’s website on Criminal Warrants and Active Warrants. You can also visit the City of Fort Worth’s website and look up warrants in Texas.
Have more questions about warrants in Texas? Call us today at (817) 203-2220 or reach out online for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will: